Funding finalized for new Oak Bay High

Province agrees to chip in $50.1 million for $64-million project

A new high school and community learning centre for Oak Bay are, indeed, in the cards after the province confirmed its $50.1-million contribution to the project.

“From the perspective of the community and everyone else, we’ve really been in that holding pattern (until now), circling the airport and waiting to land,” said Dave Thomson, principal of Oak Bay High. “Now we can actually land.”

Not that the funding was ever in doubt, but with the confirmation from the Education Ministry, Thomson said he can forge ahead with consultations with community groups to move the project along.

“Now it’s creating the arrangements and partnerships and understanding what that looks like, (such as with) local sports groups. Those are all conversations that I restarted yesterday, getting in touch with community players, saying now it’s for real,” Thomson said Tuesday

In terms of breaking ground on the new school, which will replace the current 1957-built structure, Thomson said, “It’s as soon as is practical.”

The project is behind on its original timeline. Early last year, planners hoped to get their shovels dirty by summer or fall of this year, and have the school open to students for winter 2012.

Thomson said one of his challenges is finding replacement field space for the school’s athletic teams – the current fields will likely be overrun by construction materials soon.

Ida Chong, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, praised the plans for the new school.

“This new school will be a welcome addition to the fabric of this community,” she said in a statement. “In particular, I expect the school’s neighbourhood learning centre to be a tremendous asset for Oak Bay students and families.”

The centre, on the same property as the school at Cadboro Bay and Cranmore roads, would provide space for community organizations. The details have not been pinned down.

The municipality pledged $1 million toward the project, for the current gym to be turned into a theatre for students and outside groups. The school district added $1.4 million to increase the new school’s capacity from 1,200 to 1,300 students.

ecardone@vicnews.com

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